A lack of transparency has been the most common form of political influence in the education system.
By Enis Rexhepi for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 05/03/14
Pristina and Mitrovica municipalities widened the pool of people who participate in teacher hiring. [AFP]
Kosovo municipalities are including parents, student council and civil society representatives on employment selection committees in the hiring process for teaching positions.
The effort under way in the Pristina and Mitrovica municipalities aims to increase transparency in employment in the education sector and select the best candidates for teaching positions.
Officials said the practice respects existing law and is in line with administrative guidelines that were not implemented in the past.
Administrative rules to enable transparent job interviews previously were not followed, if interviews were held at all, but the practice now is radically changed, said Jusuf Thaci, director of the Pristina municipal education department.
"First, interviews now definitely are being held. Another change is that now interviews are no longer held in the municipal directorate of education, but in the respective schools where the candidates compete," Thaci told SETimes.
Thaci also said the municipality selection committee, which conducts job interviews, now includes parents and representatives of civil society groups that deal with education and transparency.
"Only commission members have the right to vote [to employ a candidate] according to the administrative guidance rules, which we must respect. But we have invited the other parties to make the process transparent and make it impossible to have any unprincipled agreements between the committee and whichever candidate they select," Thaci said.
Similarly, the Mitrovica municipality employment selection committee now includes civil society as well as media representatives, and has participated in reviewing more than 400 job applications.
Lack of transparency has been the most common form of political influence and nepotism in in the education system, said Dukagjin Pupovci, executive director of the Kosovo Education Centre, an NGO based in Pristina.
"There is high unemployment and many municipal structures have used the education and health sectors to accommodate political party [preferred candidates] as well as family members," Pupovci told SETimes.
Increased transparency is the first step to reforming the education system and a necessary one given that individuals not prepared to work with children are often hired, said Jehona Krasniqi, a doctor and parent living in Pristina.
"Hiring better qualified teachers will make a huge contribution to better quality in schools. Unfortunately, often teachers were not well enough prepared to work with children. I have experienced that in the case of my children," Krasniqi said.
Pupovci said municipalities have a high degree of autonomy in employment but it is up to citizens to get involved and ensure the employment process is free of political interference and nepotism.
"I hope the decision taken by Pristina and Mitrovica municipalities will be transformed into [general] practice, thus ensuring that the better prepared and more qualified people in the education system are hired," Pupovci said.
What can Kosovo authorities do to further increase transparency in the process of hiring teachers? Share your opinion in the comments space.